The strength of the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) will be reduced to just two as against the mandated seven after one more member completes his tenure next week, raising questions over its potential to do justice. Captain Praveen Davar, appointed as a member during the Congress-led UPA-II government, will completes his three-year term on January 25. Four other members had retired between September 9, 2015 and December 1, 2016.
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The Commission will now be left with a strength of two –chairman Naseem Ahmad and member Dadi E Mistry. Ahmad and Mistry will complete their tenures by March 3 and March 9 this year, respectively. Asked whether the workload has increased with so many posts remaining vacant, Davar said, “The workload has definitely increased. When commitment is there, the efficiency doesn’t go down. But yes, if the full strength is there, the efficiency increases. We can manage work with even five members. But with the strength coming down to three, we can’t do justice as required.”
Davar is at present handling flow of complaints from 20 states, besides those from the Union Territory (UT) of Delhi. Ahmad is dealing with grievances coming from five states and two UTs, while Mistry has been allotted three states and as many UTs.
“When the Commission’s strength is full, a member handles six-seven states/UTs each… After one of the members, Mabel Rebello’s departure in December last, Davar is left with the job of looking into complaints from 20 states,” a source said. “Ideally, the chairperson does not deal with complaints from states directly. Now, the chairman too has allotted himself a set of states. In such a case, it has become difficult to do justice to the complaints which are piling up,” the source said.
Sources said the Commission has handled around 1,500 grievances this financial year. According to a January 17 statement issued by the Ministry of Minority Affairs, the NCM had received 1,288 petitions between April and December 2016. Another flip side of not filling up vacant posts, the sources said, is that the new members will be totally at sea if there are no experienced colleagues around to guide them in the Commission.
It takes at least six months to understand functioning of the system. The Ministry of Minority Affairs must take steps and appoint members to Commission, they demanded. The Union government had set up NCM under the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992 to look into complaints from members of five religious communities — Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Zoroastrians (Parsis).
The Commission has seven members, including its chairperson and vice-chairperson. Further in January 2014, Jain community was also notified as a minority community.
Besides NCM, 15 states including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Maharashtra and Assam, which are home to sizeable minority populace, have set up commissions at their respective levels. Aggrieved persons belonging to the communities may approach the state minorities commissions concerned for redressal of their grievances or send their representations to NCM after exhausting all remedies available to them.
The functions of the state commissions, inter-alia, are to safeguard and protect interests of minorities provided in the Constitution and laws enacted by Parliament and state legislatures.